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Getting Primed for Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy

With all the buzz about Anderson Silva’s middleweight title defense at UFC 148 and Chris Weidman’s virtuoso performance to throw his hat into the championship race, two other very important middleweights have gone virtually ignored. This weekend’s Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy takes place at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon and is headlined by Luke Rockhold defending his Strikeforce middleweight championship against Tim Kennedy.

Rockhold (9-1) has already been anointed by some as the future of the middleweight division. Undefeated since 2007, the AKA product has had his had raised eight times in the Strikeforce cage. After five hard-fought rounds, Rockhold wrested the title from Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in an instant classic last September. The San Jose native then went on to crush UFC veteran Keith Jardine with a brutal right hook that ended his challenger’s night in the opening round of his first defense in January.

Kennedy (14-3) will make his second bid at Strikeforce gold after falling short against the aforementioned “Jacare” in 2010. The former US Army sniper has been slated to meet with Rockhold twice in the past, but injury kept the bout from taking place on both occasions. Kennedy returns to action after nearly a year on the shelf, but comes into the bout behind the strength of wins over Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler.

A strong undercard is capped with a fight that will crown a new Strikeforce welterweight champion as former UFC middleweight contender Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) makes his debut at 170 lb to face undefeated wrestler Tyron Woodley (10-0). The Jackson’s MMA product has seen no action since March of last year when he defeated Dan Miller via unanimous decision at middleweight in the UFC cage. ATT’s Woodley enters the cage on a run that includes wins over Andre Galvao, Tarec Saffiedine, Paul Daley, and Jordan Mein.

The main card, which airs live on Showtime is rounded out by a pair of middleweight bouts, with a slugfest between Robby Lawler (19-8) and Lorenz Larkin (12-0) as well as Roger Gracie (4-1) making his 185 lb debut against former title challenger Keith Jardine (17-10-2).

The preliminary card airs on Showtime Extreme and is anchored by a lightweight clash between former title challenger Jorge Masvidal (22-7) and highly touted prospect Justin Wilcox (11-4). Rounding out the card is a welterweight meeting between Jason High (15-3) and Nate Moore (8-2), lightweight Ryan Couture (4-1) facing off with Joe Duarte (10-2), potential lightweight title challenger Pat Healy (27-16) taking on former Sengoku Champion Mizuto Hirota (14-4), and welterweights Jordan Mein (24-8) and Tyler Stinson (23-8) squaring off.

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